DNA reveals Polynesian dog’s travels

Kuri, Canis lupus familiaris, collected 1876, between "Waikava" & Mataura plains, Catlins, New Zealand. Gift of Mr Anderson, 1876. CC BY-NC-ND licence. Te Papa (LM000828)
Kuri, Canis lupus familiaris. Te Papa

The genetic heritage of New Zealand’s first dog, the now extinct kuri, is being unravelled by University of Otago scientists using state-of-the-art ancient DNA analysis.

University of Otago PhD student Karen Greig has sequenced the complete, or near complete, mitochondrial genomes of 14 kuri represented by bones recovered from Wairau Bar, one on New Zealand’s earliest and most important archaeological sites. The results of her research were published in the journal PLOS ONE today.

Analysis of the genomes revealed low genetic diversity, which either suggests that the founding kuri population may have only been a few dogs or that the arriving dogs were closely related, Ms Greig said in a media release.

The research has been widely covered by New Zealand media, including:

Radio New Zealand: Secrets of ancestors’ best friend revealed
Dominion Post: Extinct dogs’ voyage from Indonesia to NZ
3 News: Researchers find details on NZ’s first dog
New Zealand Herald: Old dog can teach us new tricks
Yahoo NZ News: Otago researchers sequence kuri dog genomes
Otago Daily Times: Otago DNA research links kuri to Indonesia